The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac. Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born…When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.” So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba…Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.” “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!” “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.” Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live.
Dear God, when I was picking an image for this story I found it hard to pick from the ones that showed Isaac bound on the altar. I cannot imagine what kind of trauma and confusion that must have caused him. From his perspective, his father lied to everyone and had gone crazy. He was old. Was he senile? How was Isaac to know? I am hopeful that you let him in on your conversation with Abraham when you told him to not hurt him and that this was only a test. For Isaac’s sake, I hope you let him hear that. I wonder if Isaac ever told Sarah about it.
I also read somewhere once that Muslims have this same story in their history, but it is Ishmael who is be sacrificed. Of course, I’ll stick with the Isaac version, but, either way, I think the lesson is the same. What kinds of expectations do we, as fathers, put on our children? Do we expect them to carry on our name, accomplish what we never did, etc.? Do we find our fulfillment in them? Do we allow them and their potential to replace you? Is that what Abraham had done?
One thing that is clear through these stories of Abraham is that, while he loved you and worshipped you, he certainly loved himself and his own self-preservation more than being noble. He lied to Pharaoh and Abimelech about Sarah not being his wife so that they wouldn’t hurt him–giving her over to them to be their wife. He listened to Sarah’s suggestion to have a child with Hagar because they were not willing to wait and see how your plan unfolded. He excommunicated Hagar and Ishmael because…well, you apparently told him to do it, but it still seems like he sent them out to die instead of giving them some servants and supplies to ensure their survival. And then you felt the need to test him and break him through this story of having to sacrifice Isaac and the promise he so badly wanted you to keep, that you would make his descendants a great nation.
Father, I don’t know what you are calling me to do, but I pray that everything I do will be without regard to my own benefit. I suppose I need to be even more generous with my time and money because I have found myself being kind of selfish lately. I’ve been leaning towards being materialistic and covetous. I’ve been indifferent to the hardships of others. It’s terrible, I know. I am sorry. Please forgive me.
In Jesus’s name I pray,